THRIVE Solar Lantern
We recently got our hands on a THRIVE Solar Lantern. It's an inexpensive, solar-rechargeable LED lamp which is perfect for backup and emergency preparedness needs. Small enough to fit in a pack and dependable enough to last the long haul. We just took ours on a week long camping trip and here's the details:
Backup lighting is one of the foremost considerations any family needs to make when creating an emergency system for their home, or during an evacuation. (Hopefully that statement goes without saying but for those of you who might be new to this, we're saying it anyway.) During an extended blackout you should have several options to fall back on. Candles may not be the safest (or cheapest) option for your family, but they provide ambient light. Flashlights are great, but their lighting tends to be very directional and require being held, not to mention their dependence on batteries. When camping having a nice broad area light saves you time by fiddling around with a headlamp or flashlight while trying to get things done.
Enter the THRIVE Solar Lantern. For $17 you can get a semi-directional area light which can provide enough brightness for a large room in total darkness. For outside use, it gives you enough throw to cover your tent and an area around it for about 10 feet. If keeping these in the car as backups, they will give you more than enough light to work on your vehicle or be seen by other cars.
Let's run through some of the features and talk about why the THRIVE is a good investment for your emergency and/or car camping kits.
- Its bright! There are two lighting modes which are accessed by multiple clicks on the button on the front. Using a high efficiency LED makes it run a long time, anywhere from 5-10 hours per full charge, depending on the brightness mode you use.
- Its rechargeable using the integrated solar panel on the back of the unit. It's a fairly large panel 3" x 2.25" with 0.5 watts of generating capacity. This powers up the 1200 mah battery with 6-8 hours of direct sunlight. This is significantly better than nearly all the other solar lamps we've seen and used, which have teeny panels which won't charge anything under normal usage. During our trip we were under some serious tree cover, so we had to move the light around a few times each day to keep it in the sun, which was basically just to top the battery off. We never ran out of power after 7 days, in part because we only used the lamp a few hours each night around the campfire and to get back and forth to the bathrooms and showers.
- It's plastic, but feels durable. It can be dropped, or moderately tossed around and won't break. We also left ours outside during a rain shower one night and it worked fine the next day, although the product isn't gasketed or rated for that purpose it can take a sprinkle - just don't leave it outside for months, condensation would likely build up inside the enclosure.
- It's cheap. For $17 you can find other solar lamps, but they have stamp-sized solar panels which just don't work in the real world. The Thrive Mini Solar Lamp stands out for that reason mostly.
Could the lamp be better? Sure, I would have liked to see a USB charging port so I could integrate this into our larger backup battery system instead of relying on the sometimes fickle sunlight to charge. But it would likely add to the cost which would defeat the main purpose of the lamp, which is to provide inexpensive kerosene lamp replacements for families in developing countries. More info about that: www.onechildonelight.org.
The white color of the lamp is a little to bright for me, that's a personal thing though and in no way reflects on the lamp itself. Most folks probably wouldn't even notice. We used a colored photo gel to change it to an orange color by taping it on top of the LED. That did however cut back the luminosity pretty substantially so it is a tradeoff. The photo below shows the brightness in a completely darkened room while reading. It's good enough to see by, though you probably wouldn't want to have this be your only option long term.
Under heavy use the battery will likely only last a few years, this shouldn't be a concern if you are only using it occasionally. Keep in mind that the batteries on these also don't like to be dead, make sure you keep them charged up as often as possible - or at least a few times every couple of months. Keep the solar panel clean so it works properly.
We like redundancy on our key emergency items, with lighting most especially. It makes sense to have different types of lighting systems, and backups for your backups. The THRIVE Solar Lantern is a good addition to an emergency kit for its easy recharge ability and it's relatively low cost. It's lightweight and small, so it's convenient to have a few stashed around. I think ours will live in our shed when home, where we can keep it by a window that gets direct sun to stay charged, and which will be lit quite nicely by a lantern this size.
We've been using our Thrive Lantern for a year now, and it's found a permanent home in our camper, right next to the drivers seat. This is our go-to area light when we first get to a campsite and need to get setup after sundown. Still ticking and still nice and bright. Worth every penny so-far.
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